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The Story of Rose Reilly: A Scottish Football Pioneer

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 29th 2019

Scottish football is on the way up – at the international level, in quality, achievements and in its recognition by others. Our national team has just beaten the mighty Brazil for the first time ever, and if that were not enough, has qualified after a long fallow period for the World Cup finals taking place this summer in France.

This is not some parallel universe or fantasy Scotland, but actually what is happening now in women’s football which is currently undergoing a renaissance, and belatedly beginning to get the recognition it has long deserved.

It has been a long and difficult journey to get to this. Previously the Scottish women’s game was marginalised, patronised, dismissed, and even, the subject of banning for much of the 20th century, which denied at least two generations of talented women the opportunity to play football at a senior level in this country. Read the rest of this entry »

How do we tell the stories of the past from generation to generation?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 22nd 2019

A number of events happened in the last week that brought home t the passing of time and what really matters in life – and how we understand it (or not).

First and foremost, I took my Auntie Betty, now aged 85, to the former fishing village of Auchmithie near Arbroath. Betty was the lifelong best friend of my mother, and not my natural auntie, but family in the best sense. She provides a major connection to my parents, gives me an adult perspective on my childhood -and indeed my entire life.

I always got on with Betty. She personifies spirit, humour, energy, political insight, and most importantly, a curiosity and zest for life. In a recent discussion after the SNP conference and the debate on the SNP Growth Commission, I asked Betty what she thought of the latter and she replied (having watched it in its entirety) that ‘knowledge wasn’t a pre-requisite to take part in that debate’. Betty, I should add is no slouch in such matters, having gained an Open University Economics degree in mid-life, subsequently lecturing in economics at Abertay University. Read the rest of this entry »

The Death of Tory England and the Decline of The Spectator

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 15th 2019

For eighteen years I have subscribed to and enjoyed reading The Spectator magazine. But under Fraser Nelson’s editorship from 2009 the magazine has slowly and irrevocably gone downhill and into the gutter. Gone are the days when it was a civilised, gentle, iconoclastic read where an article could surprise and entertain from unusual angles. Good pieces still occasionally appear, but in the midst of a very different content. One that is often nasty, condemning, quick to judge people, and with a sense of profound lack of curiosity about the world – and opinions beyond the Spectator bunker.

This decline is fed by the emerging dominance of an ignoramus commentariat who seem content to blow out numerous opinions with no recourse to facts that get in away of a good polemic. This is the magazine that regularly provides platforms for Rod Liddle, Toby Young, Douglas Murray, James Delingpole and, to prove dim-witted male Brits don’t have a monopoly on bigotry, Lionel Shriver.

My weekly Spectator read has increasingly involved navigating ill-informed ranting, hatred, and bile from these and others to find the isolated oases of wit and light. Thus, The Spectator still carries erudite political analysis from James Forsyth, its Political Editor, while Isabel Hardman and Alex Massie excel online; Charles Moore, Thatcher biographer, provides what The Spectator used to – an insight into poshness and privilege – while the book reviews contain numerous gems (although increasingly Rod Liddle pops up). Read the rest of this entry »

The coming of age of the Scottish Parliament … but has power shifted to the people?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 8th 2019

Twenty years ago last Monday Scotland went to the polls in the first democratic elections to the Scottish Parliament. This coming Sunday marks the anniversary of the first session of that Parliament which Winnie Ewing famously opened with the words: ‘The Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25th 1707, is hereby reconvened.’

The new Parliament was elected with much goodwill, hope and energy, following the decisive 1997 devolution referendum. Polls showed that large majorities expected the Parliament to bring positive change on the economy, NHS, education, law and order and more, and at the same time to become the focal point of political life and decisions.

Twenty years is an appropriate point to assess the Parliament, its role and impact, and the politics and activities around it, and to ask whether it has lived up to its initial hopes, what it has achieved, and where all this might be heading? Read the rest of this entry »

Who postponed the future? Why the power of nostalgia can hurt us all

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 30th 2019

Last week I attended a talk about one of the seminal bands of late 1970s Britain – Joy Division – where the author and cultural commentator Jon Savage discussed at an event run by Monorail, a wonderful independent record shop in the centre of Glasgow, the band, their music, originality and enduring influence.

It was a mesmerising talk about the power of music, importance of place and of Britain – both in the late 1970s and now. In one observation, Savage spoke of Joy Division as representing (in 1979-80) what could only be described as ‘music of the future’. By this he meant that it was firmly located in its social and political realities – the grimness of 1970s Britain and post-war Manchester, but that it transcended this, aspiring to a timelessness and sense of prophecy.

Such a rich talk before a receptive, if ageing, audience got me thinking about areas beyond music. There is the power of the past, why the UK and most other developed countries increasingly seem shaped by what has gone before, and what this climate of nostalgia says about our societies in the here and now, and the consequences for the future.

It is important to understand that there are at least two types of nostalgia. Svetlana Boym in her 2002 book ‘The Future of Nostalgia’ identified two that she called restorative and reflective. The former ‘puts emphasis on nostos (rebuilding home) and proposes to rebuild the lost home and patch up the memory gaps’ – a kind of homesickness for the past. The latter ‘dwells in algia (aching), in longing and loss, the imperfect process of rememberance’; and unlike the former has the insight to know that we cannot go back. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Flag and the Union Jack: An Alternative History of Britain and the Labour Party
Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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